We encourage artists we consult to not leave film out of the equation when producing new songs. Today’s music industry is becoming more closely linked each day to theatre and the movie industry. A good example is “Ben-Hur” one of the most popular movies of 2016. The following artists were paid a sync fee for their songs on this movie.
The Only Way Out – Andra Day
Sisters & Brothers – Sidewalk Prophets
When We Love – Love & The Outcome
Let It Be Love – Family Force 5
Ceasefire – for KING & COUNTRY
Surrender – Blanca
Shadows – We Are Messengers
Never Burn Out – Stars Go Dim
Your Love Is Enough – Jon Foreman (Switchfoot)
Drop Your Stone – Chris August
If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli
Come Sit Down – Big Daddy Weave
Amazing Grace – Jordan Smith
Just do the math, there are 10 blockbuster movies so far in 2016, the average film has at least 10 sync tracks, that is 100 artists who got paid a sync fee that can start at 5k and go as high as 500k, depending on where their song is placed in the movie.
Over the decades, there are some songs and movies that will forever be linked because of their compatibility. It is hard to say whether the movie launched the song or the song launched the movie, probably both.
Following is a list, not in any particular order of movies and songs that set the bar a little higher: I left out the many Disney films that featured the music of Phil Collins (Jungle Book), Elton John (Lion’s King), etc. that I’ll save for another time.
“Everything I Do” I Do It for You” by Bryan Adams (“Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”)
Along with the movie being a big hit, Adams’ song became a huge success on its own. Billboard named it the No. 1 song of 1991, and it also won Grammy Awards and was nominated for an Oscar.
“We Don’t Need Another Hero” by Tina Turner (“Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome”)
Not only did Tina Turner sign on to play the villain in the third (and wackiest) film in the “Mad Max” franchise, but she also sang the film’s song, which would go on to be one of her biggest hit singles.
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds (“The Breakfast Club”)
Legend has it the song was arranged and recorded in just three hours, but Simple Minds became international stars when “The Breakfast Club” became a hit. An anthem for teens living in the 1980s.
“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion (“Titanic”)
One of the best-selling singles of all time, it kicked off the late-1990s trend of big movies having sappy love songs (“Pearl Harbor,” “The Perfect Storm”).
“Happy” by Pharrell Williams (“Despicable Me 2”)
As another song that became as big as the movie, if not bigger, the retro soul track was inescapable in 2014.
“You’ve Got a Friend in Me” by Randy Newman (“Toy Story”)
It’s kind of hard to imagine the “Toy Story” franchise without this song that seems to sum up the entire story. One of many hit movie songs from Randy Newman, the track has since been covered by countless others, including Brian Wilson and Michael Bublé.
“Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen (“Philadelphia”)
Bruce Springsteen’s somber hit was a landmark for the legendary rocker. It won four Grammys, including song of the year and best rock song, as well as the best original song Oscar. And though it peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, it was the top single in Germany and France.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” by B.J. Thomas (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”)
The No. 4 song on Billboard in 1970, Thomas’ song has gone on to show up in movies as diverse as “Forrest Gump” and “Spider-Man 2.”
“The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News (“Back to the Future”)
This was the first No. 1 hit for the band. It’s hard not to think of Michael J. Fox holding the back of a pickup truck while riding his skateboard when you hear it.
“Lose Yourself” by Eminem (“8 Mile”)
Along with starring in the movie, Eminem performed, wrote, and produced this hit song that would become the first of five singles in his career that would top the Billboard Hot 100. The song won the best song Oscar, making it the first time ever a rap song won the award.
“Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins (“Top Gun”)
Another song that you can’t hear without thinking of images from the movie. Kenny Loggins sealed his reputation as “King of the Movie Soundtrack” with this song that hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes (“Shaft”)
Isaac Hayes actually wanted to audition for the movie’s lead, but instead he went and created one of the most memorable theme songs in movie history. The song hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 in 1971 and won the best song Oscar for Hayes, making him the first African-American to win in that category.
“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins (“Footloose”)
Kenny Loggins is back, and this time his song became one of the biggest hits of 1984 with Billboard ranking it as the No. 4 song of the year. It won the song of the year Grammy, and Blake Shelton covered it when the movie was remade in 2011.
“Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. (“Ghostbusters”)
Ray Parker Jr. only had a few days to create a song for the new Bill Murray/Dan Aykroyd comedy in which they play scientists chasing ghosts. But inspired by a commercial he watched late one night, he came up with the song’s catchy “Who you gonna call?” hook. The song has since stomped all over pop culture, with references cropping up to this day on shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Key & Peele.”
“Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees (“Saturday Night Fever”)
The song didn’t just elevate the movie — it also defined the disco era. One of the biggest hits by the Bee Gees, the track was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks.
“Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel (“The Graduate”)
Obsessed with the band Simon & Garfunkel while making “The Graduate,” director Mike Nichols hoped to license a few of their songs for the movie. But instead Paul Simon agreed to write a few new songs for the movie. Nichols wasn’t feeling the songs presented to him at a meeting, but after a quick break, the duo returned with a rough version of “Mrs. Robinson,” and history was made.
The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, was the first rock song to win the Grammy record of the year, and has since been covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Bon Jovi.
“Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor (“Rocky III”)
Sylvester Stallone originally wanted to license the Queen song “Another One Bites the Dust” for the theme song of “Rocky III,” but, unable to get permission, he gave rock band Survivor their chance.
In turn they created the greatest original song for a movie. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for six consecutive weeks, won a Grammy for best rock performance, and, combining the original vinyl release and digital downloads, the song has sold over 9 million copies. But the legacy of the song is unparalleled. Along with being synonymous with Rocky (and Stallone), it’s basically the go-to song at any sporting event in the world.
“Everything Is Awesome” by Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island (“The Lego Movie”)
The movie’s theme song landed on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 57 and landed on charts around the world.
“I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly (“Space Jam”)
While R. Kelly’s gospel-fueled song doesn’t seem to fit a movie in which Michael Jordan plays with WB cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, it actually gives the movie emotional heft at the end.
“Bitch” by Meredith Brooks (Mel Gipson’s “What Women want”)
Also known by its censored title, “Nothing In Between”, is a Grammy-nominated song co-written with Shelly Peiken and recorded by Meredith Brooks. It was released in May 1997 as the lead single from her debut album Blurring the Edges. ” (by the way Meredith is my daughter-in-law, so maybe I am not objective on this one.
“Every time you go away” sung by Sasha, written by Daryl Hall (Trains Planes and Automobiles)
This is probably one of my favorite examples of how a song ties a movie together. The timing of the song in the closing scenes was brilliant.
*I am crediting Jason Guerrasio, Entertainment Reporter BI for some parts of this article.